MORE Filipino farmers are now cultivating a biotech crop in the Philippines with 415,000 of them planting the high-yielding, low-input Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt corn) in 831,000 hectares.
Thus, reported the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) in Friday’s briefing at a hotel in Makati City. Globally, the Philippines is now ranked 12th on the list of countries growing biotech crops.
Area-wise, the land devoted to biotech corn rose from 795,000 hectares in 2013 to 831,000 in 2014. Dr. Gil Saguiguit Jr., director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, told journalists during a media briefing on the ISAAA annual report for 2014 on Friday that biotech crops are necessary for the country to achieve food security.
Dr. Paul S. Teng, chairman of the board of trustees of ISAAA, explained that biotech crops actually reduce substantially the use of chemicals for farming and, thus, help cut the emission of greenhouse gases.
For his part, Dr. Randy Hautea, ISAAA global coordinator and director for Southeast Asia, said biotech crops have been adopted at a faster clip than any other types of crop since agriculture was invented.
Significantly, the Philippines, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Bureau of Plant Industry and the DA-Biotechnology Program Office, achieved corn self-sufficiency in 2012.
The land dedicated to corn zoomed in 2006, when a biotech corn variety with combined traits of pest resistance and herbicide tolerance (HT) was introduced.
By 2014, the total hectarage reached 761,000 hectares for the stacked traits variety, with 70,000 devoted to HT variety. “Since 2011, biotech corn production has exceeded corn utilization in the Philippines, reducing the country’s reliance on corn imports for food and feed.
“By 2013, the National Corn Competitiveness Board reported that biotech corn has contributed to feedstock-supply security and helped in food self-sufficiency. In addition, Philippine corn silage has been exported to South Korea since 2013 due to its quality,” ISAAA said in its report.
With the writ of kalikasan on Bt eggplant, the Philippines could hardly approve new biotech crops, while Vietnam is set to approve biotech corn this year, while Indonesia is said to be ready to issue the green light for drought-tolerant sugarcane.
Vietnam is actually the Philippines’s competitor for the South Korean corn market and possibly for the Malaysian market that needs about 2.5 million metric tons of corn annually. ISAAA said many Filipino farmers are opting for biotech crops since they are known to yield higher and do not require a liberal dose of farm inputs.
Based on a global study of more than 100 researches worldwide last year, ISAAA said, “on average, genetic modification technology adoption has reduced chemical-pesticide use by 37 percent, increased crop yields by 22 percent and increased farm profits by 68 percent.”